(MENAFN- Gulf Times)
Defender Virgil van Dijk is not worried about getting injured before the World Cup even though he faces a gruelling schedule with Liverpool before heading to Qatar with the Netherlands. Van Dijk missed the last European Championship due to a knee injury but said yesterday he was not worried about suffering the same setback again ahead of this year's finals, which kick off on November 20.
“It's not something that I have thought about. It is indeed 13 games in two months but they are games that you want to play in. If you spend time thinking about it, then you are likely to get injured,” Van Dijk told reporters ahead of the Netherlands' Nations League clash with neighbours Belgium.“I play games to win. At Liverpool we are in a phase where we have to win anyway. That will be the full focus from Monday when I report back there.”
Van Dijk, with 48 caps, made his debut for the Dutch national side in 2015 but they failed to qualify for the European Championship in 2016 and the last World Cup in Russia.
Meanwhile, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal insisted they would beat neighbours Belgium today to secure top spot in their Nations League group and go into the World Cup unbeaten since he took over as coach.
The Dutch have a three-point lead at the head of League A Group Four and will win the group as long as they avoid a heavy defeat to Belgium at the Amsterdam Arena.“We're going to win tomorrow. Better to go to the World Cup undefeated than to lose the last game. That's what I told the boys,” Van Gaal said.
Belgium, who lost 4-1 to the Dutch in Brussels in June, must win by three goals to snatch top place and advance to next June's finals tournament.“If that happens, it will be deserved,” said Van Gaal.“But I believe in my players and that they will win it. That's how I prepare them. I don't expect an upset. My players are always focused and that's why I always tell them the line-up two days in advance so that they can focus.”
But he said he was pleased that the Dutch would get a tough test in their last international before the World Cup in Qatar, where they are in Group A with the hosts, Ecuador and Senegal. If the Dutch win on Sunday, it will be Van Gaal's 37th victory in 58 matches in charge and equal Dick Advocaat's record as the Dutch coach with the most successes. Van Gaal, 71, has not lost in 14 games since returning for a third spell as Dutch coach last year.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez on the other hand says clash with the Netherlands is the perfect preparation for the World Cup in Qatar as his team chase victory by three clear goals to qualify for the semi-finals.
Martinez will have to watch from the stands following a red card in Thursday's tense 2-1 win over Wales, a result that leaves his side still in with a chance of topping their pool.
This will be the final match for Belgium before they travel to Qatar and Martinez wants the confidence boost of not only the right result, but a performance they can build on.“We have the intention to go there and win but at the same time cannot lose who we are as a team,” he said.
“If you had said to us after we lost 4-1 to Holland (in June) that we would go into the last game still with the opportunity to finish top of the group, we would have taken it.”
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